Turkey might close Bosporus Straits to Russia based on Montreux agreement - columnist

Turkey is determined to push forward its agenda in Syria and might even block Russian entry to Bosporus Straits as the two countries collide on several fronts, Muharrem Sarıkaya wrote for Habertürk on Sunday.

Turkey has been sending reinforcements to Syria's last rebel-held province of Idlib, where Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces, backed by Russian air power, have made rapid advances against Turkish-backed Syrian rebels and jihadist armed groups.

The recent campaign by the Assad regime has raised tensions between Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in the conflict. The two countries also support rival parties in Libya.

"A backoff in Idlib would indicate that Turkey could retreat from several fronts, especially Libya. That's why Turkey's determination is at the levels that would not hesitate to take the crisis to the next level," Sarkıya said, citing a source with close links to the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

"The first option of what will happen if there is no consensus at the table with Russia is a shift in the implementation of the Montreux contract," the columnist said.

Turkey might prevent the passage of Russian vessels through Bosporus Straits based on one of the articles the Montreux agreement which gives Ankara the authority to block the passage of warships if it considers itself to be threatened with imminent danger of war, Sarıkaya said. 

Erdoğan earlier challenged the right of 200,000-ton oil tankers to use the Bosporus under the freedom of passage. "Some may not dare say this,” he said. “But I can. If there is a threat to our European and Asian shores, then we would do whatever is necessary to prevent it”.